Cannibal comes to DVD

Monday, 26 September 2011 00:00

Some movies make you feel happy, some fill you with sadness; twisted Belgian thriller “Cannibal” leaves you with a slightly filthy, tainted sensation that gets under your skin. The central character is Max (Nicolas Gob), a young man who lives in a remote cabin in the woods and appears to spend all of his plentiful spare time practising his golf swing. One day he miss-hits a ball into the woods and whilst recovering it he discovers a scantily-clad, blood-spattered woman unconscious on the ground.

She refuses to give up her name so he calls her Bianca (newcomer Helena Coppejans). They agree to a ‘no questions asked’ pact, and thus begins a bizarre romantic relationship. It is not long before Max discovers Bianca's penchant for human flesh, and although she can just about contain her urges around him, he reluctantly lets her quench them elsewhere by seducing and then preying on unsuspecting strangers. Meanwhile, her previous associates come looking for her, and they are not a pleasant bunch.

Cannibal comes to DVDDespite its distasteful subject matter and thoroughly unpleasant characters, “Cannibal” actually grew on me as it progressed. Much of the first half of the film is shot with a dark filter that means you genuinely cannot see the action clearly for a lot of the time, and virtually none of it during nocturnal scenes. The first half is also very light on dialogue, so you are left to muddle through, desperately straining to see what is going on and to piece together the deliberately vague plot. I was tempted to eject the disk a couple of times out of frustration!

Things do gradually become clearer both in terms of narrative and picture clarity, and we eventually learn why Max has been living such a sheltered, hermit-like life away from civilisation. Suffice to say that he has plenty of skeletons in his closet. The film also goes some way to explaining why he is prepared to shelter Bianca when she could be clamping her jaws around his jugular at any moment.

The movie is infused with an all-pervading sense of nihilism and does not feel bedded in reality as we know it; rather it establishes a world where anything goes, people can disappear off the radar without anyone noticing, and folk indulge in all sorts of depraved habits that give them the soulless aura of monsters. Having said that, there are a couple of moments of black humour, such as when the gangsters seeking Bianca briefly indulge in some terrible jokes to pass the time. Primary thug Le Gitan (Eric Godon – “In Bruges”, “The Pack”) does his best dead pan, Belgian impression of gravelly-voiced Jean Reno.

The direction feels artistic, though I could not make up my mind if it was mdfd pretentiousness on the part of debutant director Benjamin Viré, or genuinely clever. We are treated to grimy close-ups of faces covered in blood and filth, out-of-focus trees swaying in the sunlight and in the latter third some black and white footage in a kind of reverse “Wizard of Oz”. The soundtrack plays almost continually and contains a mixture of grungy rock and discordant synths; it fits the on-screen action well and fades in and out to obediently lurk in the background when it needs to.

I am in two minds whether to recommend this movie or not. It certainly has plenty of faults, not least the infuriating picture quality, and it is pretty degenerate. There is something about it, though, that intrigues and sticks with you after the closing credits. One thing is for sure: I have rarely encountered as bleak and warped a film as this. Nicholas Cage's “8MM” is probably the closest I can think of in terms of tone and subject matter.

The only bonus on the disc is a trailer.

“Cannibal" (2010) is released out now on DVD, courtesy of Matchbox Films. The main feature has a running time of 90 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and on DVD retails for £15.99, or less from

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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